©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to the Empire State, Saturday, where Flexibility will go the starting gate as the 7-5, morning-line favorite in the 136th running of the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack. Post time for the race will be 1:50 p.m. ET.
Flexibility comes into this race with a 2-2-0 record in four starts for trainer Chad Brown. As a two year old, Flexibility finished second in both the Nashua Stakes (G2) and Remsen Stakes (G2). He finally won earned graded stakes honors earlier this month with a 4¼-length victory in the Jerome Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
FLEXIBILITY managed to escape being impacted by the stumbling rival to its left, glided into the two path, got rated keeping watch on a three-way pace dispute, tipped out when ready after stepping foot onto the far turn and issued a four wide challenge past the five-sixteenths pole, took over in short order, responded when given his cue. lengthening away from upper to mid-stretch, came out a bit in the last few jumps with the outcome no longer in doubt.
Flexibility showed his class in this race as he took control in the stretch and was the easy winner. He’s a sire-line descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd, and, with a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, he’s been competitive on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
Bluegrass Cat, the sire of Flexibility, was a competitive colt and multiple graded stakes winner on the 2005 and 2006 Derby Trail.
As a two year old, Bluegrass Cat compiled a 3-0-0 record in four starts, winning the Nashua Stakes (G2) and Remsen Stakes (G2). As a three year old, Bluegrass Cat compiled a 2-4-0 record in seven starts, winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes and Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1). He finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), Kentucky Derby (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1) and Travers Stakes (G1).
Jockey Irad Ortiz retains the mount and I look for them to run a good race.
A mild long shot I like in this race is Adventist (5-1). There must be some buzz about this young colt, trained by Leah Gyarmati. He’s the morning-line third choice and he was heavily favored at 9-5 odds in his maiden debut last December, which he won by an impressive 11 lengths. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
ADVENTIST patiently kept watch on the leader from the two path on the turn, picked up interest and real estate as the half was being completed, took charge during the run from upper to mid-stretch, drifted out several paths, fighting off some right hand pressure all the while, but still drew off.
Adventist showed good speed in that race and was geared down in the final strides, by jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Despite the fact that he’s yet to run in a route race, his Behavior Index and breeding indicate that he could, perhaps, step up in class and be competitive.
Any Given Saturday, the sire of Adventist, was a competitive sprinter and middle-distance horse on the 2006-2007 Kentucky Derby Trail. As a two year old, he won his maiden debut by a narrow nose, sprinting 5½-furlongs at Turfway Park in a time of 1:04.89. He followed that run with three length win in an 8½-furlong allowance at Keeneland Racecourse and he finished the season with a second-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2).
As a three year old, Any Given Saturday won the Sam F. Davis Stakes, finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
His other notable wins as a three year old include the 8½-furlong Dwyer Stakes (G2) and the 9-furlong Haskell Invitational (G1) and Brooklyn Handicap (G2).
Adventist drilled a 7-furlong work on January 15 and followed that with a sharp 4-furlong work on January 25. In addition, he picks up the services of jockey Kendrick Carmouche who’s the only jock in this race with positive Brisnet figures.
Adventist has room to improve in his second start as a three year old and if he successfully makes the jump in class he could be a huge factor in this race.
Vorticity (8-1) comes into this race with a 2-1-1 record in four starts for trainer James Lawrence, including a win in the Marylander Stakes and a second-place finish to Flexibility in the Jerome Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of the Jerome:
VORTICITY broke on top and maintained a prominent position, cut over to the inside, had the rider hold something in reserve while being pressed by a pair of opponents parked out in paths two and three respectively, got pounced upon by FLEXIBILITY just as his fellow pace combatants were in the first stages of backing away, surrendered the front soon afterwards, finished with good courage down the lane to garner the place.
Voticity showed good determination to finish second. But, with an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, he’s yet to live up to his breeding.
Distorted Humor, the sire of Vorticity, made his first start in February of his three-year-old racing season and he did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Overall, he compiled an 8-5-3 record in 23 starts and his most notable stakes wins were in the Amsterdam Stakes (G2), Salvator Mile Handicap (G3), Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G3), Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) and the Ack Ack Handicap (G3).
As a stallion, Distorted Humor has sired numerous graded stakes winners, including the classic champions Funny Cide, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) and Drosselmeyer, winner of the 2010 Belmont Stakes (G1). Distorted Humor also is the grandsire of I’ll Have Another, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1).
A bullet work on January 15 could have Vorticity ready to run a good race. However, he’ll need to improve his game if he’s going to score the win.
King Kranz (8-1) and Sunny Ridge (5-2) should be early on the pace. I’m not too keen on either of them for the win or place. However, they could be a factor in the exotics.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2016 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Rank, Horse, Points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Nyquist, 30, Doug O’Neill, $1,580,000
2. Exaggerator, 16, Keith Desormeaux, $940,000
3. Brody’s Cause, 14, Dale Romans, $500,000
4. Mor Spirit, 14, Bob Baffert, $246,800
5. Flexibility, 4, Chad Brown, $220,000
6. Swipe, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $597,130
7. Mo Tom, 21, Tom Amoss $188,326
8. Airoforce, 10, Mark Casse, $444,080
9. Greenpointcrusader, 10, Dominick Schettino, $300,000
10. Mohaymen, 10, Kiaran McLaughlin, $300,000
11. Cocked and Loaded, 10, Larry Rivelli, $280,840
12. Discreetness, 10, William “Jinks” Fires, $245,042
13. Riker, 10, Nicholas Gonzalez, $182,375
14. Collected, 10, Bob Baffert, $80,000
15. Sunny Ridge, 8, Jason Servis, $355,600
16. Rated R Superstar, 6, Ken McPeek, $80,200
17. Toews On Ice, 4, Bob Baffert, $228,900
18. Vorticity, 4, James Lawrence II, $100,000
19. Tom’s Ready, 4, Dallas Stewart, $66,670
20. Gordy Florida, 4, Kenny Smith, $30,000